Kerala High Court Judge B Kemal Pasha, who retired Thursday, said that appointment of judges is not a family property to be partitioned and that judgeship should not be allotted on caste basis. Justice Pasha’s observations came two days after the Kerala High Court dismissed a writ petition challenging the High Court’s recommendation to the Supreme Court Collegium to elevate five advocates as judges of the high court.
The petitioners, advocates C J Joveson and Sabu, had sought a direction to the Collegium to make a fresh recommendation where ordinary lawyers, “who have no godfathers too are considered.’’ They argued that the recommended candidates are kith and kin of either judges, former judges or the advocate-general. The petition alleged that one is a son-in-law of a former HC judge, another is a cousin of a High Court judge, a third is a son-in-law of a top judicial officer and a fourth is a relative of a former SC judge.
The petitioners arraigned these five advocates as the respondents. Justice Pasha, in his speech at the farewell meeting attended by members of the Bar and the Bench, said, “Appointment of judges is not a family property of someone to be partitioned. I don’t believe that judgeship should be allotted to each and every religion, caste or sub-caste.’’
Justice Pasha said he had learnt some names from the Bar have been recommended for elevation. “If the names given by the media are correct, I can very well say that most of the judges of this court, including me, have no good fortune to see even the faces of some these persons. Is it good for judiciary?’’
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He said competent lawyers eligible to be elevated are there among the members of the Bar. “To pick and choose some persons, who are not at all competent to be judges and to recommend them for elevation will point fingers towards the system. A judge is to be considered as a minister of this temple of justice. The duty to impart justice is nothing but a divine function also. When persons who have to perform divine functions are to be selected, they should have the capacity for it,’’ he said.
“What is alarming me today is that the great glory achieved by this court in the past decades by the hard work of the judges of the court and the elite Bar, has been considerably diminished a lot due to some recent incidents (that have) happened here. Such a belief is there not only among the members of the Bar but also among the judges past and present.’’
“The judges will come and go but the Bar will always be there. The said incidents have tarnished the image of this institution and lowered its reputation in the estimation of the right thinking members of the public. In such situations, the brethren in the Bar have to react to it, if it is felt (there is) any substance in it,’’ Justice Pasha said.
He said that imparting justice is not an easy job and one has to jump many hurdles for the same. Hurdles are being created by extra-judicial forces and also on some occasions, from within the system. Justice Pasha expressed reservations against judges taking up post-retirement posts.
“Government is the major litigant before the courts of law, especially before the high court. When a judge is expecting a post-retirement job from the government, normally he will be in a position not to invite displeasure from the government, at least in the year of retirement. There is a common complaint that such judges are not dared to invite displeasure from the Government by expecting such post retirement jobs. I believe the words of Justice S H Kapadia and Justice T S Thakur that any judge shall not accept any salaried job under the government, at least for a cooling period of three years from his/her retirement,’’ he said.